Badger GP Formula 1 isn't boring. 2017-11-13T14:02:49Z https://badgergp.com/feed/atom/ Badger GP https://badgergp-x9ecz75q73bk.netdna-ssl.com/images/2016/01/cropped-badger-b-retina-32x32.jpg Emma Thomson <![CDATA[The Top Dog for Brazil is…]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972659 2017-11-13T14:02:49Z 2017-11-13T14:02:49Z Find out who we chose to be our TOP DOG for the Brazilian Grand Prix

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Yes folks, we’re almost at the end of another F1 year (sob). The championships are all sorted but the drivers still have the incentive of a Top Dog accolade to top off their year! Sebastian Vettel had his first win since Hungary, but was it enough to nab Top Dog too? Who impressed the best at Interlagos? Which driver was the top mutt of the Brazilian nuts? Mix a celebratory caipirinha for…

…LEWIS HAMILTON

Interlagos has the been the scene of many world championship dénouements, none more exciting than the 2008 showdown which saw Lewis claim his first world title crown. This race may have lacked that carnival quality, but it was certainly reminiscent of that frantic ‘Hammertime’ charge through the field.

It’s almost as if Lewis wanted the challenge after his (ahem) taxing week. In my imaginary Badger interview with the new world champ (yes, I know – I need to get our more!), I can hear him say, “How can I make this race more interesting for me and the fans? I want that freakin’ Top Dog prize. That Dutch dude has been hogging it for way too long.”

If this was his strategy, it got off to a promising start. A clumsy qualifying shunt saw him start the race from the pit lane so it was game on for an overtaking fiesta. Me likey!

ON A SAMBA ROLL

After an early safety car to clear up the mess left behind by the Grosjean-Ocon fracas, Lewis was in the mix early doors. It was relatively easy pickings at first and he was in the points by Lap 9. He pulled off a humdinger pass round the outside of Perez on Lap 14 (loving the addition of the rotating in-car camera to capture that tasty little move). Alonso put up little resistance a few laps later (shame after their brilliant tussle in Mexico) and Lewis soon got by hometown hero Felipe Massa too.  He consistently served up some stunning lap times on tyres that had no business being that quick. Could he really make it from pit lane to podium? It was looking a distinct possibility.

SAO ‘POW’-LO

He might have made it but for some tardy reactions to the blue flags – from Lance Stroll in particular. After his sole stop on Lap 43, Lewis put in some blisteringly quick laps in hot pursuit of serial Top Dog hogger, Max Verstappen. By Lap 58, Hamilton was within DRS range and ready to pounce. Max defended hard for a lap or so, but Lewis made an easy pass in the end. Next up was Ice Man Raikkonen for that final podium place. By this stage, Hamilton’s tyres were in a right old state; he was lockin’ and a poppin’ behind Kimi, throwing everything he could at the Finn. It sure was fun watching him try to nail that podium – a true ‘a la kart’ performance! In the end, car number 44 and the four-time champ managed a stunning fourth place. And he’s managed to wrestle the Top Dog trophy away from Max’s vice-like grip. Nice job, Lewis!

Massa on his first retirement from F1

DEPUTY DOG

Special mention goes to Felipe Massa in his last ever F1 race in front of his home crowd. He finished a brilliant 7th after some fun dicing with his old mucker, Fernando Alonso. And yes, apparently he really is retiring this time. Not re-tyre-ing like he did last year! Totes emosh to see him go. Again!

So it’s bye-bye Brazil and all systems go for the final round in Abu Dhabi. Who will be the Top Desert Dog of 2017? Stick with Badger to find out in a couple of weeks’ time.

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Nicky Haldenby https://badgergp.com <![CDATA[Five reasons to watch the Brazilian GP]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972633 2017-11-09T20:25:28Z 2017-11-09T20:25:28Z The Championship is over but we have a potentially excellent Brazilian Grand Prix to look forward to, here's why you should watch it!

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Both titles have now been decided so there’s no point in watching F1 this weekend, is there? Wrong! From a retiring home hero to the prospect of a classic soggy Brazilian Grand Prix, there are plenty of reasons to watch the action at Interlagos. Here are just a few!

Farewell, Felipe… Again

Felipe Massa announced his retirement from Formula One earlier this week, and this time it looks to be more final. Yes, after fifteen seasons in the sport, everyone’s favourite Brazilian says ‘tchau’. His penultimate race takes place at his home event, where he has mixed memories. In 2006, he took the second win of his career in his first year for Ferrari. Meanwhile in 2008, he once again took victory, but ended up losing the championship by a solitary point.

Felipe has been a regular podium visitor here, with his latest in 2014 for Williams. But he hasn’t had the best luck on home soil in the past two years. In 2015 he was disqualified from the Grand Prix for a technical infringement, while in 2016, he crashed out on the main straight, leading to some emotional scenes in the pit-lane in what at the time was thought to be his final home Grand Prix.

Williams have only scored one podium this season, but hopefully Felipe will be able to make it a weekend to remember for the final time in front of his home fans.

Williams driver Felipe Massa, of Brazil, walks along the track with a Brazilian flag after crashing during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. Massa announced he will retire from Formula One after this season. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The Battles Continue

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes may have taken the championship glory in 2017, but there’s still plenty of other battles to watch throughout the field this weekend. Valtteri Bottas is closing in on Sebastian Vettel for second in the Drivers’ Championship – with the Finn now looming 15 points behind the Ferrari driver. In the Constructors’ Championship, the major fight is for sixth, between Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas. Just six points separate that trio at the moment.

Most of the team-mate qualifying battles have been settled, but new team-mates Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz are one a piece so far on Saturdays.

In addition to this, we have three teams clearly capable of winning this weekend. For the first time in F1 history, there will be two quadruple World Champions on the grid. Both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will be racing as hard as ever, no doubt.

A Splattering of Rain

It wouldn’t be a Brazilian Grand Prix weekend without the prospect of rain. The forecast at the moment is for a wet Friday and Saturday, with the race likely to be dry. Rain in 2010 on Qualifying day saw Nico Hulkenberg take Williams’ first pole for over five years. Will we see another surprise result thanks to mixed qualifying conditions?

If Saturday is dry, expect to see times getting close to, or maybe even quicker than, Rubens Barrichello’s all-time lap record of 1:09.822, set thirteen years ago.

Max’s Moves

One person hoping for rain on Sunday will be the man of the moment – Max Verstappen. After winning two of the last four races, the Dutchman returns to the scene of his heroic wet weather drive from twelve months ago. The 2016 running was memorable for Max’s moves as he found grip where others couldn’t. Even a late pit stop couldn’t sop him from scoring a podium.

Can he continue his form in Sao Paulo?

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 24: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing sits in his car in the garage during practice for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park on March 24, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20170324-00098 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Fighting Force Indias

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon are free to race this weekend now that Force India have secured fourth in the Constructors’ Standings. The pair have had multiple comings together in the past year, most notably in Azerbaijan and Belgium. It will be very interesting to see what will happen if the two of them end up next to each other on the track on Sunday afternoon. The only condition that the team has given is that if there is any damage, the drivers must pay for it themselves.

A definite point of interest at the Force India team will be Qualifying – Ocon has out-qualified Perez for the past four races.

Image: Sahara Force India Media

The race is exclusively live on Sky this weekend, with both Qualifying and the Grand Prix getting underway at 4pm.

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Dan Thompson https://badgergp.com <![CDATA[10 things Felipe Massa would like you to forget]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972603 2017-11-04T16:12:46Z 2017-11-04T16:12:09Z Felipe Massa is set to retire from F1. Again. Widely regarded as one of F1's good guys, but here's our list of 10 things Felipe would rather you forget.

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The Brazilian Grand Prix is likely to be an emotional affair as Felipe Massa takes to the grid for what is possibly the final time…again.

The affable Brazilian is deservedly popular and will always be remembered as one of the sports true good guys. His career stands as an example of how it’s possible to get back up after the cruel world of F1 knocks you down and boy has Felipe been knocked down a few times. Here are just 10 of them.

Felipe Massa breaks down in tears as he returns to the pits following his heartbreaking shunt in final Brazilian Grand Prix. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

10) He’s already retired again.

Saying goodbye is never easy. In 2016 a tearful Massa announced to the world that it was time to listen to his heart and call time on his Formula 1 career. We all cried, the entire pitlane came out to applaud him, Claire Williams gave him an F1 car and Felipe transformed into a ball of light and floated away into the cosmos – although I might be thinking of Doctor Who with that last bit.

Then a few days later Nico Rosberg declared “Hey, nice retirement. I think I’ll have one of those!” To which Mercedes declared “Hey, nice Valtteri Bottas. I think we’ll have one of those!” To which Williams declared “oh dear” and picked up the phone.

There’s a decent chance that Felipe will be called back again next year – because that Martini ain’t going to sell itself – but he’d probably rather you remember his retirement as the special moment it was supposed to be rather than the annual event that it’s becoming.

Update: He’s announced his 2017 retirement today, let’s see if it happens this time…

9) Being on the receiving end of a Verstappen verbal smackdown

If there’s one thing Felipe has come to love in his older years, it’s passing comment on younger drivers. Kamui Kobayashi , Roman Grosjean and Carlos Sainz have all come in for criticism from the veteran and on the whole these comments tend to be met with little more than a roll of the eyes.

Felipe perhaps expected the same response when he decided to administer a public dressing down to then 17 year old Max Verstappen for running into the back of Grosjean at the 2015 Monaco GP. But Max Verstappen, he don’t play that game.

“I’m focusing on Canada right now” replied Max, “maybe you should review the race from last year and see what happened there.” – A reference to Massa crashing into the back of Sergio Perez the previous year.

Cue a press room full of raised eyebrows and one very unhappy looking Brazilian.

8) Having his championship hopes hosed down

Everybody remembers how the 2008 season ended – don’t worry, we’ll get to that – but in many ways it was the Singapore GP where the title was really decided.

Massa was leading the race when Renault boss Flavio Briatore decided that he didn’t much like his man Fernando Alonso pottering around at the back and ordered Nelson Piquet Jnr to crash into the wall. The safety car came out, ‘Nando took the lead and everybody else dashed into the pits.

Things started well for Felipe. He stopped on his mark, the tires were changed, the fuel went in, the jack dropped and the light went green. There was just one problem: the fuel hose was still attached. Massa tore out of his box, taking half the fuel rig with him before coming to a stop at the end of the pitlane.

The Ferrari mechanics raced to rectify their error but by then it was far too late. Felipe was dead last and his title challenge was in tatters.

Fortunately it would be the last time that he would have to suffer for Alonso.

Never Again: Massa and Alonso in the 2010 German Grand Prix (Photo credit: Ferrari Media)

7) “Fernando is faster than you”

At the start of the 2009 season F1.com declared that Massa was “No longer the Ferrari number two” and predicted great things for him in the coming years. This might have proven true had the team stuck with the off-form Kimi Räikkönen as his teammate, but when Felipe returned from injury in 2010 he found double world champion Alonso on the other side of the garage.

A few months later Massa was leading the 2010 German GP when race engineer and long-time friend, Rob Smedley was ordered to deliver one of the most infamous radio messages in F1 history:

“Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understood that message?”

Team orders were banned at the time but the meaning was clear. The “No longer number 2” driver pulled aside and allowed Fernando past. It was a betrayal that neither Massa nor Smedley would every truly forgive the team for.

Fortunately it would be the last time that he would have to suffer for Alonso.

6) Having his gearbox deliberately broken to help his teammate

Massa is often praised for his dignity. Part of the reason for that is down to the way he conducts himself and part of it is because he’s never punched Fernando Alonso.

So it was the 2012 US GP and Felipe had out-qualified the Spaniard for only the second time that season. Recognising this achievement, Ferrari decided to set favouritism aside and put all of their resources into supporting him.

Only joking! They broke the seal on Massa’s gearbox even though there was nothing wrong with it, giving him an immediate 5 place penalty and allowing Fernando to move up one place at start on the clean side of the track.

In fairness, Alonso was fighting for the world championship at the time and Massa wasn’t but even so, damn.

Massa takes his Sauber for a spin during the 2002 British GP. (Photo Credit: F1-Photo.com)

5) Being dropped by Sauber because they didn’t want to serve a penalty

In today’s era of mega engine penalties which frequently see cars starting from Mars, being afraid of a mere 10-place penalty seems odd. However this wasn’t the case back in 2002 when a rookie Felipe was driving for Sauber.

After colliding with Pedro de la Rosa at the Italian GP, Massa was handed a 10-place penalty for the following race however back then grid penalties didn’t carry over which gave Sauber a sneaky idea.

They sacked Massa and replaced him with the penalty free Heinz-Harald Frentzen, then when the race was over they swapped the two men around again. The result was that the actual penalty was never served and Massa endured a one race suspension despite having never been handed one.

Grid penalties, don’t you just love them?

4) His son upstages him every time they’re on camera together

A vital skill for all F1 drivers – aside from speed – is the ability to answer questions from the media with a sense of steely calm and professionalism. This is made significantly harder when you’re often accompanied by your son who is the funniest person in motorsport.

Felipinho Massa, you legend.

3) Pretty much every Australian Grand Prix

All drivers have a bogy track, that one place where the gravel traps loom larger and podium seems all but unattainable. For Felipe Massa, that place is Albert Park.

Massa has a terrible record in Melbourne. Despite driving for top teams for most of his 15 starts, he has scored points on only six occasions. The worst part is that almost none of the bad races have been his fault as a combination of engine failures, suspension failures and – in the case of 2014 – Caterham failures have seen him rack up a whopping seven DNFs.

He did make it to the podium once but it’s still unlikely to be a track you’ll see much of on his career highlights package.

2) His near death experience

Head protection is a hot button topic these days and few drivers have a more personal stake in the debate than Massa.

On the 25th July 2009, during qualifying for the Hungarian GP, a spring broke loose from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn and pierced Felipe’s visor at around 170mph. The unconscious Brazilian then ploughed into the barriers at full speed, coming to a stop in the tire wall.

He was airlifted to hospital with a life threatening skull fracture and underwent emergency surgery; finally regaining consciousness the following morning. The injury would keep him out of F1 until the following March. It was nearly so much worse than that.

1) He was world champion for 39 seconds

It was only ever going to be this, wasn’t it.

There is a good reason why, for many, the 2008 Brazilian GP is the definitive title decider. Behind in the points after the disaster in Singapore, Felipe needed to win the race and hope that Lewis Hamilton finished sixth or lower in order to take the title in front of his home fans.

Under immense pressure, Massa put his Ferrari on pole and then led from lights to flag in difficult conditions. McLaren by contrast ran a woeful race and when Felipe rounded the final corner, Hamilton was still trapped in sixth.

As the Ferrari crossed the line the crowd and team erupted into celebration but it was not to be. In one of the most famous overtakes of all time, Hamilton swept past Timo Glock on the final corner to snatch the championship away by a single point.

It was a crushing blow and as the news spread across the paddock the heartbreak in the Ferrari garage was obvious.

What followed was one of the most emotional moments in the history of the Formula 1. With tears streaming down his face Massa took to the podium, pounding his chest and in a defiant salute to the Brazilian fans. It’s one of the great images of our sport: evocative, passionate and utterly brilliant.

Image: f1-photo.com

And that’s our list. Know of any other things that Felipe Massa would like us to forget? Let us know and may your Lewis Hamilton always remain in sixth.

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Sarah Merritt <![CDATA[The Mechanic – The Secret World Of The F1 Pit Lane]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972586 2017-11-01T18:58:06Z 2017-11-01T18:58:06Z Badger's Sarah Merritt gives us the lowdown on Marc Priestley's new book, "The Mechanic" and gets a few words from F1Elvis himself!

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It’s a great time of year for all of us as F1 Bobblehats, as hot on the heels of Jenson’s book launch, we have another one that will be right up our street – “The Mechanic” from Marc Priestley aka @F1Elvis.

Marc is most often on our screens right now as part of the Sky Sports F1 Midweek Report and has been heavily involved in the Formula E coverage, but as most fans of the sport may already know, before all this, he was part of the McLaren team. Here we are privileged to have Marc’s take on the Formula 1 world from the inside.

Marc speaks candidly about his decade ensconced in a business where the high are very high, and the lows can be oh so low, but all come packaged with the same amount of hard work when you are a mechanic in one of the top teams. He takes us through how he developed his love of Motorsport as a child living right by Brands Hatch, and worked his way up through the lower series helping out with a Formula Ford team, building Caterham 7’s, always maintaining that determination to make it to the top tier. One day, his letter writing paid off and he received a positive response from Woking which was to set him on his way.

He joined McLaren, initially as part of their test team, and he shares some great insights with us into a sport at a time where the budgets were sky high, and where things like chartering a helicopter to dry out a wet test track didn’t seem so out of the ordinary! Marc talks us through what it was like to work on the team from the inside, giving great detail to landmarks in his career like his first pit stop. (See mention of that here too in our previous interview with Marc)

From Hungary 2005 – Photo by Tyler Alexander via McLaren.com

He also talks us through the work hard/play hard habits, and what ‘the boys’ got up to in the very little free time that they had on the road when not rebuilding a car until the early hours…It’s fair to say that from some of the tales in the book, he was very lucky not to get in more trouble over the years!

Practical jokes and banter aside, what you pick up on consistently through the book is a real vibe of “team spirit”, embroidered within the historical fact of the drivers, races, and championships at the time.

Marc was lucky enough to work alongside David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, among others, but it is his close relationship with Kimi Raikkonen that we gain most insight into as we read. I’m delighted to see that a tale Marc once told me at an F1 event is included as it’s a classic – I won’t reveal that to you, you need to buy the book and find that for yourself – I’ll just say “blue dye”!

Photo from @F1Elvis

We are also walked through Marc’s view of the 2007 Hamilton/Alonso season with his inside opinion of how that can split the sides of the garage, and also the emotions of being in the garage for the final race of 2008, when Lewis became world champion and we all repeated “Is that Glock?” along with the television commentary. In short, it is a must read for any F1 fan, and I can highly recommend.

We posed a few questions to Marc ahead of the books launch this week:

Marc, why does now feel like the right time for you to put pen to paper?

“I’ve had some kind of book in my mind ever since still working at McLaren, but never got round to doing anything with the idea. A year ago I was approached by the publisher and it gave me the kick up the backside I needed, as well as the opportunity to make it happen. I’m really grateful.”

I know from chatting with you that you have so many stories and insights into F1. Was it difficult to narrow it down to the ones you included in the final book?

“Yes, although remembering them all was the most difficult part.”

With that in mind, I’m sure you have plenty more that you could share. Already planning a follow-up?

“No plans at the moment. It took every spare moment in my life to get this one written as it was!”

You share some insight into your close relationship with Kimi in the book. As a notoriously private person, did you feel duty bound to double check with him first before including it?

“I did indeed send him some chapters to read in advance, but he’s very low maintenance in that respect.”

And on that note, whilst I wouldn’t want you to reveal anything, I would imagine there were things you have had to leave out?

“There’s probably a whole other book I could write, but it would have to wait until I retire from F1!”

Lastly, your book is surely going to be on every F1 fans Christmas list this year, from conversations I’ve seen on social media. How does that feel? It’s a bit cool, isn’t it?

“Honestly it’s mind blowing. I’ve just seen the finished book and held it in my hand for the first time today and it feels totally surreal. I hope people enjoy the stories and thank you to everyone who takes the time to read it, I really appreciate it.”

The Mechanic is available from 2nd November 2017, and you can get your hands on your own copy here.

 

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Rob Watts <![CDATA[Why Max Verstappen is F1’s most feared driver]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972571 2017-10-31T22:02:22Z 2017-10-31T22:00:21Z Fearless attitude combined with mercurial driving skill is making Max Verstappen become the force to be reckoned with in F1, explains Rob Watts.

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Max Verstappen may not be heading into the winter with Formula 1’s champion trophy, but at just twenty years of age, he can certainly lay claim to being F1’s star of the future. The titles will come, but for now, Verstappen can be happy in the knowledge that he’s arguably F1’s most feared driver.

It might seem like a bold tag to place on a driver with just three wins to his name, but the key to Verstappen’s growing stature is that he’s still somewhat of an unknown to his rivals. Lewis Hamilton knows what to expect from Sebastian Vettel, and vice-versa, but Verstappen isn’t even near his peak and is still springing surprises on a regular basis.

His victory in the Mexican Grand Prix was perhaps the most impressive of his three Grand Prix victories, and almost certainly the strongest weekend he’s put together so far. A stunning qualifying lap put him on the front row alongside Vettel, and agonisingly just 0.086s shy of becoming F1’s youngest ever pole sitter. The fact that Verstappen was annoyed afterwards not to have clinched pole is a sign of the remarkable confidence he possesses.

The aggressive move he made to take the lead into Turn Two was inch perfect in its execution; Hamilton and Vettel, on the other hand, could have each done with an inch or two to spare as the space around them quickly closed, forcing them into contact and out of contention before the race had begun.

To suggest the championship contenders’ absence at the front made Verstappen’s victory less impressive would be a harsh call. He still had a very quick Mercedes to contend with in the shape of Valtteri Bottas – desperate to regain his early season form and prove a point – but in reality, Verstappen made it look easy.

Max Verstappen
Verstappen leads Hamilton and Vettel on lap one in Mexico – Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Bottas struggled to match Verstappen’s pace when it really mattered, and as his lead grew, Red Bull race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase was even heard to ask his young charger to slow down, prompting amusement from Verstappen who appeared to be focusing his efforts solely on his pursuit of the fastest lap.

What lies ahead for Verstappen now depends largely on Red Bull’s ability to stay on par in the development race. If Red Bull can avoid another slow start and take its current form into 2018, Verstappen will be a major contender in next year’s championship battle.

Earlier this month it was announced that Verstappen would be extending his existing Red Bull deal through to the end of 2020, matching the length of Vettel’s new Ferrari deal and ending speculation that he might move elsewhere. Christian Horner’s comments clearly show that Red Bull see Max as its prize asset.

“I think he can see the strength and depth of the team,” Horner told Motorsport.com. “He feels comfortable in the team. He’s the youngest Grand Prix winner; he’s the youngest double winner, he’s the youngest points scorer.

“Lewis is pretty set at Mercedes, Seb has signed for three years at Ferrari. The obvious thing is to build a team around [Verstappen]. But it’s down to us to provide him with a competitive car.”

If that competitive car does come, it would appear that Red Bull’s focus will shift towards Verstappen in the way it did towards Vettel during his title-winning years with the team. That’s an ominous thought for Red Bull’s rivals, and perhaps enough to nudge Daniel Ricciardo towards the exit door should he feel he’s not getting a fair crack of the whip.

Max Verstappen
Verstappen’s win in Mexico was his third with Red Bull, and second this season – Image Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

All the great champions have shown the ability to build a team around them to some extent, but with F1 teams so much bigger these days, having that focus towards your side of the garage can be hugely beneficial. Verstappen’s father, Jos, will know all about that from his time as Michael Schumacher’s teammate at Benetton in the nineties.

Sometimes momentum, speed, and raw talent still aren’t enough to guarantee success; a toughness on track and a degree of intelligence off it come in handy as well. Verstappen’s fearlessness and willingness to push the limits set him aside from many others on the grid; his move on Raikkonen in Austin is just one example of that. But those are the opportunities that top drivers very rarely pass up; “make the move, then argue about it afterwards” is perhaps a motto Max might well adopt for himself in years to come.

In practice for the Mexican Grand Prix, Mercedes accused Verstappen of blocking Valtteri Bottas’ hot lap in the stadium section. When asked for his opinion on it afterwards, Verstappen was unphased: “There is no incident for me. That’s his own problem if he out-brakes himself in the next corner.”

It’s this “couldn’t give a f***” attitude that some see as arrogance, but in reality, it’s probably one of the few character traits he’s picked up from his father, Jos. Thankfully, Verstappen’s mother, Sophie, herself a champion karter who raced and beat the likes of Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella, has had enough of an influence on Max to ensure he’s a more level-headed character than Jos was when he raced.

With the right car and the right guidance, Verstappen could easily go on to dominate the next decade in F1. Beating the likes of Vettel and Hamilton along the way will make that first championship just that little bit sweeter when it comes.

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Emma Thomson <![CDATA[The Top Dog for Mexico is…]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972563 2017-10-30T11:30:31Z 2017-10-30T11:30:31Z A strange race saw Hamilton clinch the title, but who got the TOP DOG award? Find out!

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It’s been a busy old week with F1 jumping straight from the Tex to the Mex.  The show rolled into the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the anticipated title decider, duly won by Lewis Hamilton – albeit in slightly bizarre fashion.  But who would win that other coveted prize? You know, Top Chilli Dog? Would it be the most successful British driver of all time? Valiant Vettel after yet another superb recovery drive? Someone new?

After much careful deliberation, I can reveal the champ chihuahua award goes to…

…MAX VERSTAPPEN

You just knew Max was going to be in the mix in Mex! He was having one of those weekends when everything was going right.  He had the momentum from two brilliant drives in the previous races.  He blitzed the Free Practice sessions, had a great car underneath him (Red Bull continuing its welcome upward performance trajectory – on Verstappen’s car at least) and he just missed getting his first ever pole position by a ‘smidge’ (technical term).  Sandwiched between the two championship contenders on the grid, the smart money was on Max getting the jump on Vettel off the start line.  And so it came to pass – literally.

The youngster showed yet again why he has all the hallmarks of a world champion in waiting.  He was simply sublime at the start, braving it around the outside (where else?) of pole sitter Vettel, judging his braking to perfection and basically showing everyone around him who’s boss.  Hamilton had a momentary sniff at the lead too but Max was having none of it.  And thanks to Lewis’ and Seb’s third corner mishap, Verstappen shot off into the distance never to be troubled again.

Holy guacamole!

It may sound like plain sailing, but it takes some doing to finish 20 seconds ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and almost a minute clear of Raikkonen’s Ferrari.  Those cars are seriously quick, but no-one had an answer for our Max. It was an awesome display of dominance which I’m sure we will see many more times in the future.

It appears he didn’t need to try very hard either.  Asked by the team to slow down a tad and just match the pace of second place man Bottas (why bust a gut if you don’t have to?), the Dutchman thought he was obliging only to be told over the radio he had done an identical lap time to his previous one.  When asked to ease off again, Max replied with a casual ‘I’m very sorry’ and a cheeky little chuckle. Going slower is clearly not in the lad’s DNA. Great news for us fans!

Max’s radio communication was a treat throughout the race, demonstrating his capacity to race hard, be aware of what’s happening around him but still have the head space to calmly control everything from the front.  His perfect start prompted the chilled response of ‘Simply, simply lovely.’  I’ll second that Max.  Congratulations on a hat trick of Top Dog awards. Now give someone else a go!

Tequila shots all round

I’ll admit this week’s choice was a tricky one.  There were so many contenders for different reasons.  Vettel and Hamilton put on gutsy displays, regaining multiple positions on this notoriously difficult overtaking track.  Hamilton’s fourth world championship is a phenomenal achievement and thoroughly well deserved.

Badger was also impressed with several of the midfield boys too.  Ocon, Stroll and Magnussen had terrific races as did Hulkenburg and Ericsson before the mechanical gremlins struck.  But special mention (and a double tequila shot) must go to our old friend Fernando Alonso.  He defended like a demon all race long – he wanted points and he wanted them bad.  His sparring with old adversary, Hamilton, was an absolute joy to watch; two world champions and pure racers going at it hammer(time) and tongs.  Well done to all you deputy dogs!

Both championships might be done and dusted, but it’s still all to play for in the Top Dog stakes.  Join Badger GP for all the goings-on in the penultimate round in Brazil.  See you soon. 

 

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BGP <![CDATA[Formula One and the late move into the digital era]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972353 2017-10-27T15:32:54Z 2017-10-27T15:32:54Z Enjoy this guest article from Digital Marketeer, Ian Howes. He gives his thoughts on F1’s past and how it’s got us to the current embracing of Digital under Liberty. Bernie Ecclestone spent 40 years in charge of Formula One. He took it from a gentleman’s sport, enjoyed by thousands at the trackside, to a global […]

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Enjoy this guest article from Digital Marketeer, Ian Howes. He gives his thoughts on F1’s past and how it’s got us to the current embracing of Digital under Liberty.

Bernie Ecclestone spent 40 years in charge of Formula One. He took it from a gentleman’s sport, enjoyed by thousands at the trackside, to a global commercial giant enjoyed by millions all over the world.

The world was a very different place in the late seventies when he began working on his empire. He successfully steered Formula One into live broadcasts, through international television rights deals, and brought races to countries no-one could have imagined at the beginning. All with huge value deals. 

His business was done on a handshake, and the value of each deal was clear and defined. It funded the sport several times over. I think it is fair to say, it also served to give him an affluent lifestyle. This era, and these deals fitted in nicely with the world around them. Businesses could pay for worldwide awareness by paying to have their logos on the cars and by the trackside, in the same way that smaller businesses could gain local awareness by paying to be in the Yellow Pages. 

“I just hope that my reputation is of someone who is straightforward, honest and straight down the line, which is different to somebody who is going to screw people—because I haven’t done that. My reputation is worth more to me than money. I’d like to be remembered as the “handshake guy”, the one who did it all on a handshake.” – Bernie Ecclestone

Forty years on, business models and advertising have moved on considerably. Promotion has gone digital, and it is tangible to the Nth degree. Google have built their empire by offering a service for free. The same goes for Facebook, Twitter and numerous other services and social media platforms. They had a long term vision; building an audience by offering the best service for users and not charging for it. Bloggers give insights into their expertise free of charge purely for the value of a link back to their website and Vloggers make an income based on the number of views their videos get. Apps take months to code, and are offered free to users to build an audience to market to. It defies all traditional logic. 

The difference between the good old days and modern age world of marketing was becoming increasingly apparent under Ecclestone’s reign. He was continuing to negotiate deals at face value, and the digital world threatened his totalitarian approach. F1 had no official Twitter presence until long after other sports had hopped on board, and the launch of an official Formula One app (at £19.99 per year) showed an extreme naivety to the digital world. F1 videos posted on YouTube were instantly removed on copyright grounds and there was no content posted online anywhere. Even when Formula One teams awoke to social media, they were banned form posting films recorded at the track. Ecclestone saw it all as a threat to his TV rights deals, and that was the backbone to his commercial structure.

“I think the change that is currently taking place is very short-lived, as these social media people are starting to think it is not as good as they thought” – Bernie Ecclestone 

Aside from the reluctance to embrace digital, Formula One has been increasingly pressured into justifying its existence by developing technology that will improve the fuel efficiency of road cars. Tighter regulations have restricted innovation, smaller engines have removed the ground shaking noise and tarmac run off areas have all but removed the chance of driver mistakes being punished with retirement. It has all done little to improve the spectacle, and the traditional fans are turning off. It is now the time for Formula One to encourage a new, younger audience. Bernie didn’t value these demographics because they were perceived as less affluent and of little interest to the high-end sponsors associated with the sport. The sport’s legacy had been hidden from them.

Along comes Liberty

The Liberty Media takeover seemed impossible, but it happened, and as of the start of 2017 they have set about making change; an American approach to showmanship and a modern approach to marketing. Bernie has been relieved of his duties, Formula One has a social media community and the connection with the audience has become noticeably improved. Force India, Renault F1 and AMG Mercedes all publicly exchange camaraderie on Twitter that adds an entertainment value beyond the racing. Online gaming is being embraced with a newly launched Esports series, where competitors from all over the world can compete in a live Final at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The winner even gets to be immortalised in the next Formula One game! Most recently it has been announced that fans are going get to vote for their favourite classic race, and the winner will be aired in full on YouTube. Liberty Media are embracing the digital mantra, and offering an element of ‘free’. At the track they have rolled out F1 Experiences – a chance for paying customers and VIPs to sample the speed of a Formula One car in a special two seater version of a 1998 Tyrrell 026. By next year a new updated version is being headed up by experienced technical chief, Mike Gascoyne.

So what could be next?

360 degree filming is being trialed and if successful this could allow viewers to interact and pan around, watching short extracts on smartphones, devices and VR systems. Facebook has supported this type of video for while and Twitter now enables it too. By posting key moments from each race in 360 degree video and sharing them through social media, Liberty could lead the way in digital broadcast. This kind of innovative delivery is something you would expect in the high tech world of F1 and the shares and interaction would take Formula One to a whole new audience, adding extra value to sponsors.

Official Formula One licensing for video games has been very exclusively held by one company for around the last 17 years, and it has been sold at an extreme premium in a similar fashion as the TV rights. For many years, these were held with EA Sports, a super power in the world of video games, but a company that showed little understanding of the sport and did little to appease the purists. For years the game never came out within the season on which it was based, meaning fans never got to drive the current cars of their heroes! This has now been sold on to Codemasters, who do a much better job with it, particularly in the past two years, but the exclusivity may be best left in the past. By having official cars appearing in games such Projects Car 2 or Gran Turismo Sport it would give other creatives a chance at portraying the range of cars and would encourage some healthy competition. Most importantly, it would lead new fans into the sport rather than just appealing to existing fans. 

Final thoughts

Lastly, I strongly believe that more needs to be done to inspire young children into the world of F1. McLaren’s Tooned series was a great way of connecting with the younger audience, but it quickly faded and after two series’ seems to have been dropped. These children are the fans of tomorrow and with merchandise licensing pricing independent toy makers out of the game for too long, there has been little to connect them. There are a world of possiblities; a F1 review programme aimed at children, animated short stories showcasing the sport’s past heroes or child focussed apps would all serve to give the sport a healthy future. 

Without fans there will be no sponsors. And without sponsors the sport cannot fund itself.

It gives me great pleasure to see the change this year and I’m looking forward to seeing where Liberty Media take it next. Extensive market research is taking place at this very moment, and if the answers are acted upon, there could be a very exciting time ahead.

Ian Howes is a long term F1 fan and owner of Nu Image, a Digital Marketing Agency based in Norwich, England. Follow Ian on Twitter @f1hello.

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Nicky Haldenby https://badgergp.com <![CDATA[Five reasons to watch the Mexican GP]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972530 2017-10-26T20:59:32Z 2017-10-26T20:59:04Z Max Verstappen has already won the race. Sort of. Without corner cutting (or not)

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The eighteenth round of the 2017 F1 season takes us to Mexico City where Lewis Hamilton looks set to win his fouth Drivers’ Title. Meanwhile, there’s another new driver line-up at Toro Rosso and did you know that Max Verstappen may have already won the race?

We take a look at the reasons why you need to watch all the action this weekend!

Hamilton to be World Champion again?

With the Constructors’ Championship wrapped up for Mercedes last weekend, all eyes are now firmly on the Drivers’ Title, which is likely to be won by Lewis Hamilton on Sunday.

A title has never been decided at this track before but the maths is pretty simple this weekend. If Hamilton finishes fifth or higher, he will be the 2017 World Champion, regardless of where title rival Sebastian Vettel finishes.

On the other hand, Vettel must outscore Hamilton by 16 points if he wants to hang on to any slim chance of winning a fourth world championship in 2017.

Hamilton’s reliability this year has been bulletproof, and he has finished all 999 racing laps of the season. It seems that a lapse in that reliability record will be the only thing able to stop the clock reaching hammer time.

The Toro Rosso Shuffle

The Toro Rosso driver merry-go-round continues this weekend as the team brings their fourth different driver line-up of the season. Pierre Gasly, who missed last week’s U.S. Grand Prix to compete in the Super Formula championship season finale (which was incidentally cancelled due to weather!), returns and will be joined by Brendon Hartley. This line-up looks likely to remain until at least the end of the season. Hartley, who finished thirteenth on his Grand Prix debut in Texas, changes his racing number to 28 this weekend.

Max Verstappen: 2017 Mexican Grand Prix Winner?

Max Verstappen’s chances of winning the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix increased dramatically when Daniil Kvyat was dropped once again by Toro Rosso. While there’s no logical reason why, there is one statistic – every time Daniil Kvyat has lost his seat, Max Verstappen has won the following race.

every time Daniil Kvyat has lost his seat, Max Verstappen has won the following race.

In 2016, when Kvyat was hurled back to the Italian team from the main Red Bull squad, his replacement – Verstappen – won the following race in Spain. And in 2017, when Kvyat lost his Toro Rosso drive following the Singapore Grand Prix, Max won the next race in Malaysia.

It would be quite the feat if the same coincidence were to happen this weekend now that Kvyat has been unceremoniously dropped from Toro Rosso once again. Kvyat’s future in the sport looks bleak as Helmut Marko has said the Russian won’t be returning to the Red Bull junior team.

Podium Mix-Ups?

Talking of Verstappen, his removal from the podium finishers last time out in Texas caused quite the stir among teams, journalists and fans. After overtaking Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap, Max’s move was found to be illegal and he was given a five second time penalty, which demoted him to fourth.

Verstappen knows the feeling of being ousted from the podium celebrations all too well as he first experienced it in Mexico last year. Sebastian Vettel was promoted to the podium, taking third spot after the Dutchman was familiarly penalised for cutting a corner. On that day at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the drama continued well into the evening, as Daniel Ricciardo eventually ended up taking the third place trophy home after the stewards deemed Vettel at fault for ‘dangerous driving’.

Will we see a repeat of any podium debacles this weekend?

The Fans

Part of what makes this event special is the atmosphere around the track, thanks to the passionate Mexican fans. A unique feature is the stadium section between Turns 13 and 16, where the crowd can usually be heard loud above the sound of the V6 engines. The podium ceremony is always spectacular – as it takes place in front of the fans in the stadium rather than in the pit-lane.

Force India will be getting the most support from the Mexican crowd, thanks to home favourite Sergio Perez. The pink panthers have been very racy this season, but are yet to score a podium in 2017. Could Checo give his home crowd something to really cheer about with the team’s first showing on the rostrum this year?

Alfonso Celis Jnr, will be taking Esteban Ocon’s seat in First Practice too, giving the Mexican crowd an all-Mexican team for one session.

The race is live on Sky this weekend, with Qualifying kicking off at 7pm on Saturday and the Grand Prix beginning at 8pm on Sunday evening.  Remember the clocks go back!

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Rob Watts <![CDATA[It’s time Daniil Kvyat was shown some respect]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972509 2017-10-23T21:40:11Z 2017-10-23T21:35:02Z Demoted, dropped, replaced and treated unfairly, Daniil Kvyat could have raced his last Grand Prix. But, as Rob Watts explains, it's about time the Russian was treated with some respect.

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This feeling must now be all too familiar to young Daniil Kvyat. After being ‘rested’ for a couple of races, he’s now been demoted again from his Toro Rosso race seat, and his Formula 1 future appears now to be as uncertain as ever.

After all that’s happened in the past eighteen months, it seems unthinkable that just two years ago, Kvyat’s career seemed to be on an unstoppable upwards trajectory. Despite that early success, his relationship with Red Bull, the team that backed him and brought him into F1 is undoubtedly now at breaking point.

How could it have gone so wrong, so quickly?

In his first two seasons of F1, Kvyat appeared to tick almost every box possible for a rookie driver. Points on his debut made him F1’s youngest ever scorer, promotion to the senior team then followed where he became the second-youngest driver to score a podium in F1 history. By the end of 2015, Kvyat had outscored his more experienced teammate Daniel Ricciardo, and his stock was seemingly on the rise.

But that’s as good as it got for Kvyat. A tricky start to 2016 saw him earn the unwanted nickname “The Torpedo” after Sebastian Vettel’s criticism of his first corner aggression in China. A week later, things went from bad to worse for Kvyat at his home race in Sochi. He made contact with Vettel, not once, but twice on the opening lap, pitching the Ferrari driver into the wall and out of the race.

A few days later, Red Bull made the surprise decision to send Kvyat back to the Toro Rosso team, promoting Max Verstappen in his place. To rub salt into his wound, Verstappen went on to win first time out in Red bull at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Red Bull’s stance was this was giving Kvyat the opportunity to “continue his development” and the chance to “regain his form and show his potential.”

Looking back, perhaps the most ominous line in that release was its effort to stress that Kvyat “remains part of the Red Bull Family.”

In all honesty, Kvyat may still be a part of the Red Bull ‘family’, but that relationship seems to be broken beyond repair. While F1 is and always has been a results business, it would appear at times that Kvyat’s wellbeing has been affected by the pressure that comes with that.

He hasn’t looked comfortable or relaxed during a race weekend for some time now. His demeanour after being knocked out in Q1 at last year’s German Grand Prix should have been a warning of how the pressure and strain can affect even the most talented of athletes.

Kvyat looked lost, bereft of confidence, and close to tears in the media pen after and you wonder if he’d have even finished the season at all had there not been a well-timed summer break just around the corner.

Last winter should have been a reset for Kvyat, a chance to switch off and spend a little time focusing on himself and rediscovering his motivation. 2017, his fourth year in F1, presented an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, remind the world of his talents, and also that Red Bull had made a mistake in discarding him the year before.

Daniil Kvyat
Kvyat has been replaced by both Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley this season – Image Credit: Octane Photographic

It hasn’t happened though. And as we’ve seen so many times before, you’re only as good as your last race, and Red Bull has a short memory when it comes to swapping out drivers. In a recent interview with Sky, Kvyat likened his affiliation with Red Bull with that of an ex-girlfriend saying: “Once the relationship is broken it’s very hard to fix it.”

After a brief cameo at the United States Grand Prix, Kvyat has been dropped again, this time in favour of Porsche LMP1 driver Brendon Hartley – himself a former Red Bull junior driver – who keeps his seat alongside the returning Pierre Gasly. You could understand to some extent why the team may have given Gasly a couple of races to see how he fares, especially knowing now that Carlos Sainz won’t be racing with the team in 2018.

With Hartley getting a second bite of the cherry in Mexico, it now would seem that Toro Rosso is not auditioning for Daniil’s new teammate, it’s auditioning for his replacement.

Gasly appears to be a shoo-in for a race seat next year, and one would assume that Hartley has every chance of partnering the Frenchman should he perform adequately between now and the end of the season. It’s quite possible that we may not see Kvyat drive a Toro Rosso again.

But where next for Kvyat? What are his options?

At just 23, he’s far from being over the hill, and could potentially have another ten years left in F1, or longer should he choose to race elsewhere. He’s been quietly linked with Williams this week, and in some ways that would be a good fit for him. A family run team, with a more relaxed atmosphere, and no Helmut Marko lurking behind you everytime you turn round.

Daniil Kvyat
Kvyat’s future at Toro Rosso looks increasingly in doubt beyond 2017 – Image Credit: Octane Photographic

On the other hand, you could forgive Kvyat for saying ‘I’m done with F1’ and heading off for a lucrative career in sportscars, or even stateside in something like IndyCar. If he finds himself without an F1 drive next year, don’t be surprised if he does that.

Being an elite sportsperson is a privilege that very few people will ever experience, but if you’re not enjoying it, what’s the point? I do not doubt that Kvyat can still succeed as a top line racing driver, he just appears to be the sort of person who needs an arm around the shoulder, rather than one who thrives on the constant uncertainty of whether he’ll have a job next week. He’s only human after all, I know I’d struggle with that.

Whatever Kvyat does next, I for one hope he does what’s right for Kvyat the man, and not just Kvyat the racing driver. F1 is not the be all and end all; there are many other championships out there where he may find a welcome new home, and most importantly, the respect he deserves.

Good luck Daniil. I wish you all the best.

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Emma Thomson <![CDATA[The Top Dog for the USA is…]]> https://badgergp.com/?p=972500 2017-10-23T09:37:46Z 2017-10-23T09:35:42Z An awesome, podium-worthy drive gave us only one choice for the TOP DOG in Texas..

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With one of the championship battles now decided – congrats to Mercedes on another constructors’ crown – there is only one question on everyone’s lips.  Who drove their socks off deep in the heart of Texas? Which of our driver faves shone brightest in the Lone Star State? The choice for this week’s Top Dog is what we in the trade call a ‘no brainer’.  Yep, for the second race in a row, the prize is duly awarded to…

…MAX VERSTAPPEN

Let’s get one thing straight (which, let’s face it, is more than the stewards have).  Max should have been on that podium.  More on that later.

For a few minutes at least, we all thought he was.  Having started a lowly 16th after an engine penalty, Badger knew we were in for a treat.  If there’s one driver we want to see blitzing his way through the field, it’s the dynamic Dutchman.  And boy did he serve up a treat, more lip smacking than a Texan BBQ.

AUSTIN POWERS

Max has come alive in the past few races, spurred on by a turnaround in his reliability fortunes which has allowed him to remind us what he’s made of.  He has pure racing spirit running through those youthful veins and it’s a delight to watch him in full super charge mode.  Right from the off, he was locked and loaded, ready to pick off driver after driver in a bid to use his strategy to catapult himself into the top five. Things started spectacularly with a quick draw off the line.  He was up to 9th by Lap 3.  Some of his overtakes were super tasty – aggressive but not overcooked – others a bit more ‘candy-from-baby’ (poor Fernando!).

However he got by, it was clear Max meant business and was hell bent on making the most of his alternative strategy.  P4 or 5? Hell no!  Verstappen had his beady eye on the podium thank you very much. Why settle for less?

HOWDY DO IT?

Just like last time out, the youngster used his head to plan ahead, execute his overtakes in style and use his newer tyres to maximum effect.  Yet he was still able to drive at breakneck speed and was probably surprised to find himself in the lead by just under half distance. He knew it might not be for long. Lewis Hamilton – who unless the world ends, will be the 2017 champion -was soon on Max’s tail, itching to retake the top spot. But Verstappen was no pushover and the two of them had a good old scrap for a few tantalising corners.  Lewis got him in the end, but this moment signalled more enticing battles to come.  The young gun versus the old guard. More of that please!

Max benefited from a de facto free pitstop with eight laps to go, which is when the Red Bull truly joined the rodeo.  He was relentless in his mission to catch Raikkonen and Bottas (some brilliant jostling between the two Finns). Max chalked up fastest lap after fastest lap; Badger could sense something special was on the cards.

RULES IS RULES?

And boy, was it ever? With the Ferrari’s playing the team order game, Vettel was safely in second with Raikkonen in the final podium spot.  Having dispensed with Bottas, time was running out for Max to nab that third place.  The last two laps were a joy to behold, with Max reeling Kimi in for an all-or-nothing duel to the flag.  I was on the edge of my seat as Verstappen and Raikkonen duked it out on those final few corners.  I try to remain neutral (really, I do!), but I admit I was willing Max to win out (no offence to Kimi who had a cracking day at the race track). I whooped and hollered when he got the job done and shared his euphoria when he crossed the line.

Until those pesky stewards intervened. They deemed he had shoved Kimi off track and gained an advantage and duly slapped him with a time penalty which left him fourth after all.  Boo.  Now I’m all for following the rules, as long as they are applied in a fair and consistent fashion.  Can our lovely steward friends put their hands on their hearts and say they have done that?  One could argue Kimi gave as good as he got in the shove stakes.  

And there were several examples of similar incidents which were investigated with no further action.  The drivers have had it up to their visors with ridiculous grid penalties. Please don’t add to their woes with inconsistent stewarding of racing incidents.  Or just bring gravel traps back and be done with it!

Whatever the stewards thought, Max was utterly brilliant from lights to flag.  He was the rightful winner of the official Driver of the Day vote – and Badger has no qualms in making him our Top Dog too.  Never change, Max.  You’re a true racer and superstar. Thank you.

DEPUTY DOGS

Badger would like to give a special mention to Carlos Sainz in his first race for Renault.  He was superb in qualifying and the race and was rightly delighted with his seventh place finish.  And a final ‘well done’ to the Hi Ho Silver Arrows themselves for claiming another constructors’ world title. Brilliant job, Mercedes.

Join us for the next instalment at the Mexican Grand Prix. Will Lewis seal the deal?  Looks like it.  Arriba! 

 

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